Nunavut MLA Arvaluk steps down

Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk has resigned from Nunavut's legislative assembly for health reasons.

Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk has resigned from Nunavut's legislative assembly for health reasons.

James Arvaluk, seen in a file photo, has been recovering from a major heart attack and stroke he had last year. He resigned as the MLA for Tununiq on Monday. ((CBC))

Arvaluk notified the assembly of his resignation on Monday, officials have confirmed.

Arvaluk, 63, had a heart attack and a stroke last year and spent weeks in an Ottawa hospital before returning home to Pond Inlet, where he has been recovering since.

"It has been an honour to serve the people of Pond Inlet in the legislative assembly and I deeply appreciate the support and encouragement that I have received during my recent health challenges," Arvaluk stated in a news release issued Monday.

"Following consultation with family, constituents and colleagues, I have determined that the needs of my constituents would be best served by affording them the opportunity to elect a new member to serve in the legislative assembly."

Hoped to return to work

Arvaluk told CBC News in an interview last month that he hoped to return to the legislature in time for the spring session, which begins on May 31, but he added that he's been having trouble getting his speech and memory back.

"I sure miss working and talking about the concerns of the Pond Inlet people," Arvaluk said during the interview.

"They still come to me and ask me, 'What else can we do since you're not in the office right now?'"

Arvaluk was first elected to the Northwest Territories legislature in 1991, when Nunavut was still part of that territory, but he was forced to resign in 1995 after he was charged and later convicted of sexual assault.

In 1999, Arvaluk was elected to Nunavut's first legislative assembly as the MLA for Nanulik. He became the territory's first education minister shortly after that.

But Arvaluk had to resign again four years later, after he was charged and later convicted of assault causing bodily harm against his former girlfriend.

By 2006, Arvaluk said he had turned over a new leaf. He won a byelection that year in Tununiq to succeed former Speaker Jobie Nutarak, who had been killed in a snowmobile accident.

3 seats vacant

With Arvaluk's departure, the Nunavut legislature is now without three of its 19 MLAs.

Iqaluit West MLA Paul Okalik stepped down last month to run as a Liberal candidate in the federal election. He lost to incumbent Conservative MP Leona Aglukkaq on May 2.

Pangnirtung MLA Adamee Komoartok resigned in March amid controversy about an assault charge he faced at the time. Prosecutors withdrew that charge against him on May 6.

A byelection has been scheduled for Sept. 12 to fill the Iqaluit West and Pangnirtung seats. A byelection date for Tununiq has not yet been set, but it could be held on Sept. 12 as well.

According to Nunavut's Elections Act, a byelection must be held no later than six months after a seat becomes vacant.